Heightened Health Risks for Children and Pregnant Women Amidst Escalating Climate Crisis

by Ella

In a joint appeal issued on Tuesday, United Nations (UN) agencies underscored the urgent need for immediate action to address the significant health risks faced by women, infants, and children as the global climate crisis continues to intensify. The World Health Organisation (WHO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) collaborated to bring attention to the neglect, insufficient reporting, and underestimation of the impact of climate events on maternal and child health.


The joint statement emphasizes the critical importance of incorporating maternal and child health considerations into national climate change response plans, highlighting a substantial gap in prioritizing the needs of women, newborns, and children within the climate change discourse across numerous countries.


Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General for Universal Health Coverage at WHO, issued a stark warning, stating, “Climate change poses an existential threat to all of us, but pregnant women, babies, and children face some of the gravest consequences of all.”


Ahead of the COP28 climate conference, the call to action outlines seven pivotal measures, including sustained efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, initiatives related to climate finance, and specific incorporation of the needs of pregnant women, babies, and children in policies.


Delegates at the COP28 conference will mark the inaugural Day of Health, recognizing the interconnectedness between individual well-being and the health of the planet.

Impact of Climate Change on Health Risks

Climate change disrupts the patterns and geography of various health conditions, including respiratory illnesses. Rising temperatures contribute to shifts in the geography and intensity of vector-borne diseases, posing a heightened threat to vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women with weakened immune systems.

Changes in water availability, resulting from droughts or flooding, impact agriculture, food security, housing, and infrastructure. Furthermore, they affect the availability of clean water, sanitation, hygiene, and access to health services and information. In severe cases, climate change can manifest as a humanitarian crisis, leading to widespread migration and accelerating population displacement.

Specific Health Risks for Children and Pregnant Women

Heat-Related Illnesses: Rising temperatures, contributing to heatwaves, pose a risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, with pregnant women and children particularly vulnerable.

Vector-Borne Diseases: Climate change influences the distribution and behavior of disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes and ticks, increasing the spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease, with significant risks for pregnant women and children.

Respiratory Issues: Changes in climate patterns contribute to increased air pollution and allergen proliferation, leading to respiratory problems like asthma. Children, especially those with developing respiratory systems, and pregnant women may face heightened health risks.

Waterborne Diseases: Climate change impacts water quality and availability, raising the risk of waterborne diseases. Pregnant women and children are particularly susceptible to diseases like diarrhea and cholera resulting from contaminated water.

Malnutrition: Climate change’s impact on food production and security can lead to malnutrition. Pregnant women and children face a higher risk of inadequate nutrition, with potential long-term health implications.

Studies indicate that the damage may commence in the womb, resulting in various complications for both mothers and children, with consequences that could extend throughout a lifetime. The urgency of addressing these health risks in the face of a rapidly escalating climate crisis cannot be overstated.


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